“It’s easier to go back and look at pricing, counts, and product information than using a spreadsheet. I have been able to catch some major errors in counts and pricing. ...I would recommend Backbar to other bars and restaurants. It is like the heavens opened up.”
Wine and Beverage Director for Cohn Restaurant Group
Running the beverage program for 25 restaurants takes an attention to detail usually reserved for birds of prey. It means overseeing hundreds of thousands of dollars in beverage inventory and directing 25 different bar managers across a variety of restaurant concepts, all while making sure each bar program is profitable. That’s the challenge facing Maurice DiMarino, Wine and Beverage Director for Cohn Restaurant Group (CRG). Thankfully, he’s crushing it.
Mr. DiMarino, a certified sommelier and cicerone, is a long-tenured industry veteran who has tailored dynamic beverage programs to fit a wide range of restaurant concepts.
Dining with CRG could mean you’re sipping on a Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley at Island Prime, a seafood restaurant on San Diego Bay. Or ordering pork by the pound at the beer focused Pioneer BBQ. If you’re really lucky, you’re on vacation awaiting an island cocktail at the elegant Plantation House at Kaplua Resort on the north coast of Maui.
The variety of restaurant concepts means each beverage program has to have the right inventory selection and costs to work for each business. Management at CRG have worked hard to find the right inventory management platform to meet their needs.
“[The restaurants] are all different concepts, there is no one size fits all,” says Mr. DiMarino. “My philosophy is to have well trained employees that can make good buying decisions. [But] there is a lot of transition in our industry. When a manager creates a specific program and then leaves, that program may fall by the wayside.”
They tried a handful of inventory programs to streamline beverage management and improve oversight across restaurants, but issues kept coming up. Whether it was high monthly cost for systems or overly complex software that was difficult to implement at different CRG locations, finding the right inventory platform was a challenge.
“Cost of the system has always been a challenge for us. Another downfall is they require a lot more upkeep on the manager’s end,” says Maurice. “Many times [the software] offers too many bells and whistles but lacks the simplicity of adding and taking inventory.”
After working with various platforms and not seeing results, the Cohn group started working with Backbar. Immediately Maurice was impressed by how intuitive Backbar is. The app provided him a lightweight experience that offered the basic functionality he needed. He was also pleasantly surprised with the advanced analytic features that highlighted areas where they could reduce costs without being clunky and complex.
“Backbar is very user friendly," says Maurice about his experience getting started with Backbar. "It’s met our expectations and exceeded them. It saves time and is easier to take inventory. The extra tools have been very useful, especially recipes, menus, shift notes and direct ordering to vendors.”
A key ingredient for success is the team of managers overseeing each bar program. Maurice needs to trust them to run day-to-do operations.
“My general philosophy is to have well trained employees so that they can make good buying decisions. I like to give them the autonomy to select items they deem relevant to their individual programs.”
Because Backbar is so easy to use, it was quickly adopted at 19 different restaurant locations in the Cohn Restaurant Group. Managers were able to implement the system into their day-to-day operations to start streamlining daily tasks and achieve better oversight on costs and operations.
One area Maurice saw an immediate impact was in cocktail programs:
“Building recipes has made it easier for managers to build a cocktail program while staying within pour cost goals.”
When it comes to running a bar, the numbers have to make sense. With Backbar, data stays tidy and organized so managers at Cohn can track and analyze important metrics like pour costs, vendor spend, and menu pricing to spot issues that hurt finances. Maurice notes that improved organization saves him time and simplifies his job.
"It’s easier to go back and look at pricing, counts, and product information than using a spreadsheet. I have been able to catch some major errors in counts and pricing."
A common issue for restaurants and bars is having too much inventory. Overstock increases costs and eats into profits. It’s an issue that CRG dealt with too, without realizing the extent of it.
Backbar's reporting capabilities helped Maurice repair leaks in their cash flow. One solution that reduced costs was to eliminate excess inventory to cut out unnecessary products and the overspending that comes with waste.
“One thing Covid opened my eyes to is how much excess inventory we carry in our restaurants. Moving forward we should curate our lists better and carry only products we absolutely need. Backbar is useful in helping us manage that inventory and lets us know when we have excess items in hand.”
Outside of inventory management, Backbar is also an ordering platform that connects operators with their vendors. CRG took advantage of Backbar's purchasing tools to save time on building and placing orders and cut the amount of inventory they carry.
“Submitting orders is no longer a time sucker and takes a few minutes to put all orders in at once. One of the greatest impacts Backbar has provided is the order history. It allows our teams to search all orders and if an invoice is missing we can catch it before closing out the period.”
Backbar has helped Cohn Restaurant Group reduce costs and improve beverage operations at 19 restaurant locations. It's made the job of managers and directors easier. Maurice’s perspective on Backbar offers the best insight:
“I would recommend Backbar to other bars and restaurants. It is like the heavens opened up.”